677: Practicing

677: Practicing

677: Practicing


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I’ve always been interested in how we plan for the future. I try to put a little money away now and again for a rainy day as they say. I try to imagine future scenarios to see if I am prepared. But if the last three years have taught me anything, it’s that I cannot be prepared for all the scenarios. Life is full of terrific and terrifying surprises. I never know what’s coming next. I can only be here at this moment and try to be somewhat flexible.

This may sound odd but I sometimes imagine the world without me in it. I visualize all the life around me going on without my physical body still moving through its edges. I don’t think of it as morbid, but as acknowledging the deep and inevitable truth of life, that at some point, death will come to all of us. I am not a Buddhist, but I’ve always admired that a key tenet of Buddhism is acknowledging our own death. For me, personally, it can actually bring a sense of peace to remember that life will go on without me. It’s a quick way to put things in perspective and recalibrate my own sense of urgency toward things that are, generally, not so urgent.

That doesn’t mean it’s not scary sometimes, or just really really sad. Honestly, I’d like to live forever. Or at least until 120. I’d like to still be writing poems, sitting under an old tree I planted, petting my dog that has also managed to live to 120. I like this life and I’d like to keep it for a very long time. But even if I could live that long, there are parts of myself, or of my life, that couldn’t stay around that long. Some things would be lost.

Today’s poem does that work of exploring an inevitable truth, of what it feels like to try to prepare oneself for a whole new way of living in the world.

by Ciona Rouse

I walk, eyes closed, down
the hall, hands brushing our
bumpy wall lightly, “What are you

doing?” my love asks. “Practicing”
I say. I have glaucoma.
Which means a cloud overcasts

the sun of my sight until
there is no light. Or maybe instead
the black hole of my iris pulls

the gravity of periphery closer
and closer until it stampedes
a cattle of stars in my eyes’ mind.

All the light my brain uses
to kaleidoscope a galaxy
in my head, bones of stars bejewel

my sockets: gas, plasma, dust.
City lights collide and scope.
I know nothing of blindness.

And too little about science
to accurately describe
my future sight spaghettified

but the doctor says, with certainty,
quite certainly, I’m too young
to not go blind. He says I will,

eventually. And so I practice.
Science, too, knows little
about black holes, meaning they

mystify, meaning
they elude even the knowledgeable
like the doctor who so convincingly says

I will without saying when
or the end of a poem unpretending,
which also practices

also goes long ways down dark halls
feeling for its way, hoping it knows how to
carry nothing but constellations inside its orbits.

"Practicing" by Ciona Rouse. Used by permission of the poet.